Church History

Research Article

The Last Carolingian Exegete: Pope Urban II, the Weight of Tradition, and Christian Reconquest

Matthew Gabriele


Pope Urban II (1088–99) was trained at Reims and Cluny before entering the orbit of the Gregorians around Rome. As such, Urban was first trained as an exegete. By considering how Urban used one particular verse (Daniel 2:21) and tracing that verse's intellectual lineage forward from the Fathers, through the Carolingians, we get a clearer picture not just of the vibrancy of eleventh-century intellectual life but also, ultimately, of Urban's understanding of the arc of sacred history. As a trained Carolingian exegete, Urban continued the work of his ninth-century predecessors, calling the Christian people (populus christianus) to mend their ways and strike back against the pagans, so that God would return His hand and allow the Christians to reconquer the Mediterranean world.

Matthew Gabriele is an Associate Professor of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech.